Geroy Simon went out on top of the Canadian Football League on multiple fronts.
The Greater Johnstown High School graduate officially announced his retirement Wednesday after 15 seasons in which he caught more passes for more yardage in the history of a league that is more than 100 years old. Of most significance to Simon, 38, was his being part of three Grey Cup championship teams, which is the equivalent of winning the Super Bowl in the NFL.
“Hands down, those are the three most important times in my career and my most cherished accomplishments,” Simon told The Canadian Press. “When I first got here (Canada), winning wasn’t that important to me, it was my individual success.
“I think the maturity of being here and evolving as a person, as a player with a few great organizations switched my thinking to where it stopped being about my individual success as opposed to winning games and winning Grey Cups.”
Simon migrated to Canada and the CFL after he went undrafted and several shots at landing an NFL job didn’t work out for the 6-foot, 198-pound receiver from the University of Maryland.
Two years on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad was as close as Simon got to a regular NFL job. He also had tryouts with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Kansas City before heading North to play two seasons (1999-2000) with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Initially, Simon viewed the CFL as an opportunity to showcase his talents and perhaps once again grab the attention of an NFL suitor.
But a decade-and-a-half later, Simon realized the CFL was an ideal fit.
Simon truly found his home with the British Columbia Lions (2001-12), where he evolved into a prolific receiver, shattering records and winning two Grey Cups. Simon was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player when he had 105 receptions for 1,856 yards and 15 touchdowns on a championship team in 2006.
The Johnstown native finished his CFL career with league records in receiving yards (16,352) and receptions (1,029).
Simon had nine consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards.
He was so well known in his adopted country that the Canada Post put Simon’s likeness on a postage stamp commemorating the CFL’s 100th anniversary in 2012.
“Geroy’s career was outstanding and that’s a tribute to his work ethic and the kind of person that he is,” said Tom Fleming, the Johnstown High football coach when Simon starred with the Trojans. “I was just happy I had an opportunity to see him play in person last year when Saskatchewan played in Hamilton.”
Prior to last CFL season, British Columbia traded Simon to rival Saskatchewan.
While injuries and a new role resulted in lower statistical production, Simon savored the role of a veteran leader and he helped the Roughriders win a Grey Cup. He had two touchdown catches in the title game win over Hamilton.
“He made a good decision to go out as a Grey Cup champion and the holder of the most catches and most yards in Canadian Football League history,” Fleming said. “Geroy’s a great person and I’m proud he came from Johnstown, Pennsylvania.”
At Johnstown, Simon caught 127 passes for 2,086 yards and was also a standout in basketball and track. He had 2,059 receiving yards at the University of Maryland.
“A kid from Johnstown, Pa., goes to the University of Maryland and now is the all-time leading everything in the CFL when it comes to receiving,” British Columbia defensive coordinator Mark Washington, a former teammate, told The Canadian Press. “He had an awesome career, a storybook-type career. For him to go out a champion, it’s fitting.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.